October 17, 2018

My Dad was in town visiting last month. My Dad is not a birder, but he likes hiking. So a day of “hiking” was planned.

Our schedule for the day included the following:

  1. Hiking Alsea Falls Trail and Green Peak Falls, Trail near Alsea, Oregon.
  2. Stopping by Finley to look for White-tailed Kites.
  3. Stopping by the Philomath Sewage Ponds because who doesn’t take their Dad to the local sewage treatment facility when he visits?

Alsea and Green Peak Falls were beautiful, but the birding was quiet.

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Finley delivered as always. We saw TWO White-tailed Kites  from the Prairie Overlook. While at Finley, I checked my email to see if there were any recent rare bird alerts for Oregon in our area. A Dickcissel had been spotted at the Philomath Sewage Ponds earlier that morning! Record scratch! The Dickcissel is not a western bird at all. We cut our Finley visit short and headed straight to the poo ponds to see the Dickcissel. It took a good hour before she popped out of the grasses, but my Dad, I, and another group of birders got great looks at this little beauty.

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My dad, Tom, taking over scope duty; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.

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Dickcissel; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.

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Dickcissel; Philomath Sewage Pond; October 17, 2018.

New Birds for 2018: 2
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 246

June 15, 2018

When you are about to start your weekend with a very deserving happy hour, but you find out a Common Loon has been spotted at the “local” sewage ponds, you trade beers for birds and you hit the road.

I have not seen a Common Loon since I lived in Ontario, Canada, so I was pretty excited to see this old friend. Common Loons are not typically this far south right now, so this was a rare chance for me to see one and add it to my 2018 Oregon list.

Common Loons are gorgeous. I was counting on the bird to be easy to find considering the ponds are pretty empty (bird life) at this time of the year. The eBird posts also mentioned that the loon was in the south pond.

Much like my Pacific Golden-Plover luck, I saw the loon almost immediately. We should have brought some beer with us, though I’m sure the City of Philomath frowns upon people partying at their sewage ponds.

And … the Common Loon is BIRD #200!!

One species, bird #200. This is how it’s going to be for the rest of the year. One new bird here, two new bird there. Any pelagic tours I take will yield a small handful, but this big year has formally shifted to deliberation and strategy.

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Common Loon; Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Common Loon; Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Philomath Sewage Ponds; June 15, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

April 8, 2018

Yes, April 8 was nearly a month ago. I’m catching up.

On our way back from Burns, Oregon, last month, on April 8, 2018, we caught wind of some Red-Necked Phalaropes at the Philomath Sewage Ponds. This species is a relatively common migrant in Oregon on or nearshore, but is rarely seen inland in Oregon. We decided to take a small detour to get this species on our way back to Salem. We arrived to the ponds about 1 hour before sunset, saw the phalaropes spin around on the water*, had great conversations with some birders from Corvallis, and watched the sunset from the ponds.

*Phalaropes spin around on the water to “kick up” tasty bites. The “Spinning Phalaropes” would make a great band name.

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Watching Red-Necked Phalaropes spin around on the water; Philomath Sewage Ponds; Philomath, Oregon; April 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Red-Necked Phalaropes spinning around on the water (I should have taken a video; it’s very amusing); Philomath Sewage Ponds; Philomath, Oregon; April 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

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Sunset from the Sewage Ponds (don’t knock it ’till you try it!); Philomath Sewage Ponds; Philomath, Oregon; April 8, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt.

Later on during the week of April 8, I got three additional 2018 Oregon species: Violet-Green Swallow and Common Yellowthroat in Minto Conservation Area in Salem, Oregon, as well as a singing Lazuli Bunting in my backyard in Salem, Oregon.

New Birds for 2018: 4
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 140

 

February 12, 2018

This past Saturday, February 10, 2018, C and I headed over to William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge just south of Corvallis to bird for the day and to specifically find the *Lewis’s Woodpecker, a striking western woodpecker who flycatches insects rather than excavated insects from a tree. The Lewis’s Woodpecker nests in tree snags and prefers open woodlands. Because of fire suppression and urban and agriculture encroachment, this habitat is not as common as it once was. To add insult to injury, the European Starling also nests in tree snags and is outcompeting the Lewis’s Woodpecker. For all these reasons, this species is in decline and is rarely found in the Willamette Valley.

After arriving to the refuge, we parked at the Ray Benton overlook, where the woodpecker was being regularly seen hanging out and flycatching in the oaks. Once we arrived, a group from Portland said that they briefly saw him, but that they lost him. They left and drove off, but then they stopped soon after! They stopped and got out of their van. They got out of their van and started looking through their binoculars. Then, somebody busted out their scope. I ran down the street, while they were motioning for me to run toward them. Gosh, I love my fellow birders (where were you in Fort Stevens State Park the other day?!!?).

They found the woodpecker and had him scoped by the time I got there, out of breath. Effortless. I’ve got to admit this was pretty nice after my X3 crossbill failure this past week. I was even able to get a documentable but awful photo of the woodpecker. We also got the woodpecker in our scope and was able to help others spot him much like the Portland group did for us.

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Lewis’s Woodpecker; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt (through a nice scope).

 

We saw 31 species at Finley yesterday, which warranted a nice, worthy eBird post. I got an additional two 2018 birds, too: *Wood Duck and a *Lincoln’s Sparrow.

We ended the day at the Philomath Sewage Ponds where we watched the sunset and looked for Cinnamon Teals (negative).

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Lincoln’s Sparrow being stubborn; William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge; February 10, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Wood Thrush ;); Philomath Sewage Ponds; February 10, 2018; photograph by Clint Burfitt.

*New Birds for 2018: 3
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 86

January 13, 2018

One of the reasons why I’ve always loved birding is that it essentially brings me to some of my favourite places, namely forests and wetlands. This is also a fair assumption by folks who find out you’re a birder:

birder = a person who spends time outdoors in beautiful, natural places looking for birds

While this is often the case, on Saturday, January 13, I headed out to one of my area’s seriously birdy Hot Spots: the Philomath Sewage Ponds.

The Philomath Sewage Ponds are just south of the town of Philomath. They comprise three lagoon cells (i.e., ponds). After passing through the facility’s headworks, raw sewage is stored in these three ponds, which are designed to kick-off the treatment of raw sewage by “storage under conditions that favor natural biological treatment and accompanying bacterial reduction.”1 The water from these ponds is treated further when it is eventually pumped to what’s called a chlorine contact chamber. Eventually it is either discharged to the Mary’s River or is used for irrigation, depending on the season.

Anyway, these sewage ponds did not let me down. I found myself going from pond to pond, as if I were opening up Christmas gifts of birds to myself. After feeling pretty comfortable with the ponds, I moved onto the adjacent shrubby-wooded area to the south of the ponds where I saw a new-to-2018 species and lifer, a Black Phoebe.

Breaking the rest down for you here:

Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
*Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
*Black Phoebe (lifer!)
American Crow
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
*Savannah Sparrow

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Black Pheobe; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Black Pheobe; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Northern Shoveler; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Northern Shovelers; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Red-tailed Hawk; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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Savannah Sparrow; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

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American Kestrel; Philomath Sewage Ponds; January 13, 2018; photograph by Linda Burfitt

*New Birds for 2018: 3 species
2018 Year-to-Date Talley: 60 species (this includes two additional 2018 species I saw earlier in the week on January 10—*Gadwall and *Green Heron—both of which were at the Koll Center Wetlands Park near my eye doctor in Beaverton, Oregon. I stopped there for a few minutes before I went back to work).

  1. Westech Engineering, Inc. 2017. Wastewater System Facilities Plan. Philomath, Oregon. Available at: http://www.ci.philomath.or.us/vertical/sites/%7B2CFF016E-1592-4DB3-9E2B-444FA3EFC736%7D/uploads/PhilomathFacilitiesPlanV3.pdf